A dozen stories (1989—99) that show a slightly darker tinge than Roberts’s novels (The Bluest Blood, 1998, etc.) about Philadelphia schoolteacher Amanda Pepper (Roberts obligingly includes two Pepper stories, one of them a short-short whose heroine is technically anonymous, for purposes of comparison). To be sure, Roberts treats her favorite subject here—the psychopathology of middle-aged matronhood—with a light touch in the routine “The Shrine of Eleanor” and “Love Is a Many Splintered Thing,” giving the male of the species his due in the otherwise interchangeable “Goodbye, Sue Ellen.” And when she ventures into deeper waters, the results are sometimes overwrought (“Hog Heaven”), strained (“Heart Break”), or unbelievable (“Clear Sailing”). Roberts’s best stories nail the darker side of her inimitably frustrated postmenopausal singles and couples with a concept as witty as her mad-housewife interior monologies. “Where’s the Harm in That?” sets a sheltered heroine loose among the personal ads. “What’s a Woman to Do?” pits a “standard issue Little Old Lady” against a tirelessly barking dog. Best of all, “After Happily Ever” follows Cinderella and her prince through the marriage that was supposed to end their story. Just a bit tarter than Pepper.